What is it?
This, believe it or not, is a £99,000 Mini. That’s a staggering sum of money for any car, let alone one so small. The David Brown Automotive Mini Remastered ‘Inspired by Monte Carlo’ – just as long in name as in asking price, then – is a reimagining of the iconic Mini, but with neater styling and a modern twist.
It’s built by the same company that brought us the £600,000 Speedback GT. Now based at Silverstone in shiny new headquarters, David Brown Automotive had reckoned on building 50-100 per year, but with the number of people who have shown ‘serious interest’ in the car since its April unveiling now in the thousands, the company is expecting to build many more than that.
This Monte Carlo version is the range-topping limited edition model, just 25 of which will be built. It gets more power than the standard car and a unique Rascasse Red and Ice White paint scheme. The cheapest version, incidentally, is the Classic, which starts at around £75,000.
It takes 1400 hours to turn a donor car into a Mini Remastered. The only components that are carried over from the donor are the engine and gearbox, both of which are rebuilt, and the VIN. Everything else, including the bodyshell, is brand new. The shell itself is stiffened with additional structural bracing and the Mini’s various gutters and seams are reprofiled or removed entirely to clean up the styling.
What’s it like?
The quality of the fit and finish, as well as the paintwork, is very good indeed. Whether or not that justifies the asking price is another matter. The cabin, meanwhile, gets high quality leather and a bespoke dashboard with lots of attractive details, such as knurled aluminium knobs for the ventilation controls.
There’s also air conditioning and even a Pioneer infotainment system with sat-nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mobile phone compatibility. Additionally, the seats are redesigned to be more comfortable and more supportive, while the boot is now leather-lined. David Brown Automotive has turned the original Mini into a tiny luxury car.
What it isn’t, according to the man whose name hangs above the door, is a performance car. Instead, it’s designed to be used in the city, which means it’s been engineered more for usability than outright handling prowess. The chassis is honed for comfort, therefore, and the engine tuned for low down torque rather than peaky power. “Inevitably you’ll still have fun in it,” says David Brown.
The driving position remains somewhat awkward; you either push the seat back and stretch your legs comfortably with the steering wheel way out ahead of you, or pull the seat forward so your legs are bunched up but the wheel good and close. Neither option is ideal but you soon get used to it.
The rebuilt four-cylinder engine now displaces 1330cc and develops 94bhp at 6100rpm and 87lb ft at 4000rpm. It drives the front wheels via the four-speed manual gearbox, which snicks around its tightly defined gate in beautiful fashion. The engine itself is gritty, rorty and full of character, although it starts to feel strained above 5000rpm.
Straight line pace is far from frenzied although, with just 750kg to haul, the Mini Remastered does get to 60mph in a reasonable 10.6 seconds. That gives it enough punch to hold its own in a frantic city centre and pace enough, too, for it to really clip along a country road.
It has very alert, slack-free, unassisted steering that feels incredibly direct even around the straight-ahead. It takes just a small twitch of the wheel rim to get the front end darting this way and that. It also rolls dramatically in cornering, making you think it could tip clean over if you attack a bend with too much conviction. It won’t, of course, and once you’ve assured yourself of that the Mini Remastered becomes enormous fun to punt along a country road.
With such minimal suspension travel and such a short wheelbase the car does inevitably feel very busy over the road surface, bouncing this way and that, but it is more settled than most original Minis.
Once the car has turned in to a corner you feel the rear end sweep around behind you. It isn’t lurid oversteer by any means, but it does help you to carry speed through the bends and maintain momentum – the key to extracting meaningful pace out of it. One of the wonderful things about the Mini Remastered is that you can drive it right on the edge for mile after mile without ever troubling the speed limit. All of that, of course, will be very familiar to anyone who has driven an original Mini of any flavour.
The car is really intended to be used in town, though, where it’ll undoubtedly be just as fun to fling around. Lacking any sort of modern safety equipment, though – ABS, traction control, airbags and so on – it’s not the car in which to dice with stressed couriers and hurried buses.
Should I buy one?
No. It’s a £99,000 Mini. That’s the only rational answer to the question, but the Mini Remastered simply isn’t designed to be rational purchase. Instead, it’s intended to appeal to the affluent fashion-conscious city dweller, perhaps those who owned original Minis in their youth. As a matter of fact, David Brown Automotive has seen a huge cross section among those who have put down deposits. Orders have come in from all over the world, too.
As Singer Vehicle Design has demonstrated with its reimagined 911s, there’s enormous appetite out there for iconic cars that have been made more usable with modern technology and updated with a fresh aesthetic. Given how adored the original Mini is, it’s hardly a surprise that a Mini without the inconveniences has proven to be so popular.
There’s no getting around the fact the Mini Remastered is extremely expensive. It’s also a very likeable and characterful little thing, though, and it’s been finished to a high standard. Pricey or not, David Brown Automotive won’t be able to build them fast enough.
David Brown Mini Remastered
On sale Now; Engine Four cylinder, 1330cc, petrol; Power 94bhp at 6100rpm; Torque 87lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox 4-spd manual; Kerbweight 750kg; 0-60mph 10.6sec; Top speed 88mph; Economy 41mpg (combined); CO2 185g/km Rivals Frontline MG LE50